This course is offered online in synchronous format.
This graduate seminar will explore how Italian writers, philosophers and film-makers responded to the impact of European modernity, touching upon difficult episodes such as the formation of race and nationalisms in the nineteenth century, the rise of fascism in the 1920s, the Second World War and the legacy of the Holocaust in contemporary liberal democracies. A late-comer in the league of modern European nations and “backward” from many economic and cultural standards, Italy became, within a few short decades, a political laboratory of some of the most defining ideological forces of the 20th-century, including the rise of racial science and criminal anthropology, which paved the way to Nazi eugenics, Mussolini’s fascism, Gramsci’s original contribution of an “Italian-way” to Communism, and the birth of so-called Italian theory in contemporary philosophy.
How did writers, authors and film-makers react to these ideological formations and political events? What forms and genres emerged in response to these dramatic historical forces? In tackling these questions, this course will put novels and films in conversation with theoretical texts at the intersection of postcolonial studies, queer studies, feminist studies, critical theory, and cultural anthropology, focusing on a number of overlapping areas. We will address, for example, the long-lasting impact that the Holocaust had in European culture in Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved through Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the relationship between biopolitics and fascism in Homo Sacer. We will read Elsa Morante’s novel History in conversation with Carlo Ginzburg’s notion of micro-history. And we will analyze Pasolini’s cinema in connection to scholarship in postcolonial studies, reading his representation of the Roman periphery as a synecdoche of the Global South.
Critical readings may include texts by Ernesto De Martino, Antonio Gramsci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giorgio Agamben, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Fredric Jameson, Gilles Deleuze, Heather Love, Carla Freccero, Lee Edelman among others.